The Inclusive Educational Process of Students with Visual Impairments in Spain: An Analysis from the Perspective of Organizations

Article excerpt

Inclusive education is a complex and multidimensional process that, among other aspirations, tries to foster the rights of every student to obtain a high-quality education (UNESCO, 2009). This process focuses on the diversity of needs of all students by increasing participation in learning, cultures, and communities and reducing exclusion within and from mainstream education (UNESCO, 2005).

The starting point of the study discussed here was Ainscow, Booth, and Dyson's (2006) approach to inclusive education, which refers to three relevant dimensions: presence, participation, and achievement. Moreover, inclusion is committed to the unavoidable task of identifying and reinforcing the facilitators that promote each dimension. In this sense, the barriers found at different stages of school life, as they interact negatively with the personal or social conditions of students at certain times, could hinder the students' presence, achievement, or participation education. It is necessary, therefore, to have data by which to identify if there is either advancement or stagnation in the process, since such information may be used to direct tasks toward the consolidation of progress and the overcoming of obstacles (Ainscow et al., 2006).

The study presented here analyzed the process of inclusive education from the perspectives of representatives of national organizations for persons who are disabled in Spain. Our aim was to contribute to the identification of the barriers to and the facilitators of inclusive education for students with visual impairments, complementing the valuable inputs from previous studies in this area (Bardin & Lewis, 2008; Chien-Huey Chang & Schaller, 2002; Davis & Hopwood, 2002; Dimigen, Roy, Horn, & Swan, 2001; Gray, 2005, 2009; Smith, Geruschat, & Huebner, 2004). These studies identified features that must be checked to prevent difficulties in progressing toward inclusive education. Some of these features include specialized services; books and materials in appropriate media, such as braille; specialized equipment and technology to ensure equal access to specialized curricula (American Foundation for the Blind, 2005); and the training of specialist teachers (Porter & Lacey, 2008; Smith, Kelley, Maushak, Griffin-Shirley, & Lan, 2009). Other features are practitioners' collaboration in the main teaching-and-learning processes that take place in mainstream classrooms (Argyropoulos & Nikolaraizi, 2009; Davis & Hopwood, 2002; Gray, 2005); attention to the social-emotional needs of students (Roe, 2008); and different views on translating policy into practice, such as between administrators and teachers (Smith et al., 2004). These studies show the gap between what professionals in the field say should be done and what is actually occurring (Oka & Nakamura, 2005).

The study presented here was part of a broader project in which 286 representatives and experts from 11 Spanish organizations related to the education of disabled people in Spain participated (Echeita et al., 2009). The aim of the study was to focus on the opinions of experts on education or representatives who were linked to the National Organization of Blind People in Spain (ONCE) about the inclusive education process of students with visual impairments from the perspectives just mentioned. Also, we were interested in knowing if these appraisals were different at different educational stages, both compulsory and noncompulsory.

METHOD

Participants

The participants were 56 representatives and experts on education who were associated with ONCE. Of the 56, 62.5% (n = 35) were experts hired by ONCE, 8.9% (n = 5) were leaders, 5.4% (n = 3) were staff, 21.4% (n = 12) had other positions, and 1.8% (n = 1) did not answer the question. Regarding the participants' years of experience on issues related to education, 89.3% (n = 50) had more than 8 years of experience, 3.6% (n = 2) had 5 to 8 years of experience, 5. …

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